• Forgotten Gialli Volume Two (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: November 27th, 2019.
    Director: Ferdinando Merighi/ Tonino Valerii/William L. Rose
    Cast: Howard Vernon, Anita Ekberg, Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet, Robert Sacchi, Evelyne Kraft, Pietro Martellanza, George Hilton, Salvo Randone, William Berger, Patty Shepard, Daniela Giordano, Raf Vallone, John Scanlon, Karin Schubert, Rosalba Neri
    Year: 1972/1972/1972
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    Forgotten Gialli Volume One – Movie Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome delivers another trio of ‘forgotten gialli’ in their second boxed set collection.

    French Sex Murders:

    Italian director Ferdinando Merighi isn’t up there with the hallowed likes of Argento, Bava or Fulci but he did have a few notable contributions to Italian genre cinema, having worked on a couple of Spaghetti Westerns and helmed this goofy slice of sleazy Giallo cinema, French Sex Murders.

    The loopy storyline tells the tale of thief named Antoine (Pietro Martellanza a.k.a. Peter Martel, star of Death Walks At Midnight made the very same year) who heads off to a Parisian brothel run by the matronly Madame Collette (Anita Ekberg of The Killer Nun). When the prostitute that Antoine was with gets killed and he flees the scene, it sure looks like Antoine offed the poor girl and Inspector Pontaine (Humphrey Bogart look-a-like Robert Sacchi) is called in to investigate.

    The cops bring Antoine in on murder charges but soon he’s swiped a motorbike and gives them a high speed chase that they weren’t expecting. The end result isn’t too favorable for Antoine though, as he gets decapitated when he loses control of his bike and hits a truck. You’d think that this would be the end of the mystery, right? Right, except that Madame Collette winds up dead the very next day.

    Inspector Pontaine gets on the case and starts trying to piece together the ‘whodunnit’ puzzle he’s been presented with. While he’s out running around trying to sort if all out, a strange cast of characters including a doctor named Professor Waldemar who operates on decapitated heads for research purposes (played very well by Jess Franco regular Howard Vernon), a sleazy author writing a book on the brothel, and all manner of prostitutes employed at the house of love (one of whom is played by Barbara Bouchet of Don’t Torture A Duckling) try to maintain their innocence. Throw in a twist or two involving Waldemar’s daughter (played by Evelyne Kraft of The Mighty Peking Man) and a plot with Antoine’s estranged wife, a night club singer named Marianne (played by the gorgeous Rosalba Neri of Lady Frankenstein) and you can see how Pontaine might find himself with his hands full.

    With a cast as solid as this one, plenty of striking and psychedelic murder sequences and some fun gore effects (provided by Carlo Rambaldi, the same man who won an Oscar for his work on Spielberg’s E.T.) you’d think French Sex Murders would be a shoe-in for the ‘Giallo Classic’ title, but sadly, the story isn’t interesting enough to slap this one with that catch phrase. Not that it’s bad – it isn’t – it’s actually really fun and the movie moves along at a good pace, but the plot itself plays second fiddle to the cast and the murder set pieces. However, if you don’t mind turning your brain off and letting things get a little trippy for just under ninety minutes, this one is a fun entry in the stalk and slash world of Italian murder mysteries. Whenever someone is killed the camera pulls some odd visual tricks, taking some strange angles and flashing peculiar lights on screen to, presumably, heighten tension but what this results in is a kind of ‘huh?’ reaction, rather than a jump scare. Even if it isn’t all that effective a technique, it is an interesting one.

    Performances are pretty good all the way across the board, though Sacchi’s Humphrey Bogart impression gets old fast. Ekberg is great as the cold madam of the brothel while Neri does a good job of eliciting some sympathy for her character’s plight (plus we get the added bonus of seeing her pretend to sing a French lounge song is a sultry black outfit that definitely catches the eye). Howard Vernon steals the show as the rather odd doctor with a fixation on slicing up eyeballs and who may or may not have an unhealthy obsession with his pretty young daughter made all the more obvious by his disdain for any man she claims as her lover.

    Throats are slit from left to right, heads are cut off, eyeballs are squashed maliciously, and plenty of clothing is removed from the many supple young women in the cast. All that adds up to a sleazy good time, even if none of it really makes a whole lot of sense by the time the end credits hit the screen of your TV set. Producer Dick Randall has a small, un-credited cameo scene in the film, as does Gordon Mitchell of all people (this guy pops up all over the place). Bruno Nicolai provides the funky, jazzy score that works really well, especially during the kill scenes while Bruno Mattei is credited with editing duties which may explain why little of it makes any sense.

    Note that the version of the movie presented on this Blu-ray is the ‘never-on-disc French version’ which includes quite a bit of extra nudity that wasn’t seen in the previous DVD edition of the film.

    My Dear Killer:

    Tonino Valerii’s 1972 film My Dear Killer opens with a great scene where a man surveys a swampy lakeside location, puts out his cigarette and is promptly decapitated by a excavator, presumably there to dredge the lake! Inspector Luca Peretti (George Hilton of The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh and All The Colors Of The Dark) is called to the scene to investigate, and upon his arrival meets up with right hand man Maro (Salvo Randone of The Assassin). Neither man has any clue as to why the victim would have been killed in such a bizarre manner, but Peretti figures out who was driving the excavator and sets out to find him, assuming he would have been the murderer. They get their man, but not before he takes his own life – or so it seems. Peretti isn’t so sure that the guy hanged himself, in fact, he tells Maro that he believes he too was murdered.

    As Peretti and Maro continue to dig around for clues, our top cop starts to put together the pieces of the puzzle, tying the first two killings to a kidnapping case involved a young girl named Stefania Moroni, the daughter of a wealthy local man, who was held for ransom and whose father was tragically killed while trying to save her. Stefania wound up starving to death, the kidnappers never brought to justice.

    When Peretti figures out that connection that the man killed in the opening scene had to the Moroni case, he races against time to find and bring in the killer before he adds to the ever-increasing body count in his attempts to keep the truth of that old case from coming to light.

    Highlighted by a fairly infamous murder set piece where a victim is assaulted by a black-gloved killer wielding a motorized Black & Decker saw, My Dear Killer is a really strong giallo picture. Featuring some clever, even witty, dialogue in its script from Roberto Leoni and an excellent score courtesy of the late, great Ennio Morricone, Valerii moves the film at a nice pace and lets cinematographer Manuel Rojas really strut his stuff. There’s some truly excellent camerawork on display in the picture, which, when combined with the top-notch score, really helps to heighten the film’s drama and suspense.

    As to the acting? Hilton is good here. He’s never been actor with a particularly impressive range and some complain that he’s frequently quite wooden with his delivery and style, but his style works here. He looks the part and handles the material quite well, creating a reasonably believable cop, as perplexed by the case he’s stuck with as he is with his problematic home life. He and Salvo Randone make a pretty good team, and we get supporting performances from William Berger (of Keoma, Face To Face and Sartana), Marilù Tolo (of Confessions Of A Police Captain, Candy and Roy Colt & Winchester Jack to name just a few), Spanish horror regular Helga Liné (of Horror Express, The Vampire's Night Orgy and Horror Rises From The Tomb) and Patty Shepard (who appeared in Edge Of The Axe, Slugs and Rest In Pieces).

    The Girl In Room 2A:

    Directed by in Italy by American filmmaker William L. Rose, a veteran of the sixties New York City sexploitation scene and produced by Dick Miller, The Girl In Room 2A begins with a set piece in which a pretty young woman is abducted, stripped, stabbed and then tossed over a cliff by some very mysterious looking captors. The story proper begins when a beautiful and mysterious dark haired woman named Margaret (Daniela Giordano of Inquisition and Fox With A Velvet Tail) is let out of jail and takes up residence in a boarding house run by a middle aged widow named Mrs. Grant. She’s going to stay there temporarily until her friend (Rosalba Neri again) can help her get back on her feet – but somehow seems fairly unexcited when she notices a big pool of blood on the floor of her room.

    As time goes on, the widow’s son, Frank, starts to fall for her while she strikes up a romance with a different man who looks sort of like Greg Brady and who rents the apartment across from her so that they can look at one another through their windows! While all of this is going on, random beauties are disappearing in the area and it all seems to tie in to the boarding house that our heroine is staying in – is she next? What’s the real story with this place and the strange people who run it and the killer running around in the red hood?

    The great opening sequence sets the stage for what you initially hope will be a fast paced slice’em up chock full of sex and violence but once that scene is over with, the movie switches gears and slows down considerably. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it is a drastic shift in tone and pace that goes from a sensational murder set piece to a series of long, talky, character driven moments that set up the rest of the storyline. Sometimes this works, sometimes it feels forced but throughout all of this, Daniela Giordano looks great and with Rosalba Neri and Karen Schubert (of Emmanuelle Around The World) in supporting roles, most fans won’t complain too much. The film returns to its fast paced opening style in the last twenty minutes or so as it all hits the fan and the truth about the boarding house is revealed. Figuring out who the masked killer is won’t be too difficult despite the fact that it’s all fairly impossible for those paying attention but the film still definitely end on a high note.

    Rarely lacking for style, the film offers up some mild thrills in the sexploitation department, belying Rose’s roots in a scene where Giordano’s character lays down in bed with her new boyfriend and in a few other scenes where the camera tends to linger a bit on the naked ladies who populate it. On top of that, the film periodically ups the ante in the weird department by having the killer cult members leave cryptic notes with quotes from various famous philosophers on them and by throwing in a few surprisingly nasty scenes of naked women being flogged by lunatics. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray presents the film in its completely uncut form.

    Forgotten Gialli Volume One – Blu-ray Review:

    The three films in this collection are presented as follows:

    French Sex Murders: AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with the feature taking up 23GBS of space on the 25GB disc and taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative, framed at 1.85.1 widescreen.

    My Dear Killer: AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with the feature taking up 29.5GBS of space on the 50GB disc and taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative, framed at 2.35.1 widescreen.

    The Girl In Room 2A: AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with the feature taking up 22.8GBS of space on the 25GB disc and taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative, framed at 1.66.1 widescreen.

    The following disclaimers appear before each of the three films:

    Generally speaking, these transfers are really strong. The first film has some noticeable print damage in a few spots but it isn’t constant and when it does show up, it’s pretty faint. Detail is quite good on all three transfers, with My Dear Killer looking the best of the bunch. Each transfer retains a nice, film-like quality throughout. All three are nicely detailed with plenty of depth and texture to it and they looks very filmic, showing no noticeable problems with any obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts. Some of the inserts taken from 35mm prints for The Girl In Room 2A are of noticeably lesser quality (see screen cap #36 below) but better to have the content here in lesser form than not at all, and as these are only brief inserts, it’s a pretty minor issue. Overall, these are very solid presentations, each film looking far better than it ever did on their past DVD editions.

    French Sex Murders get a 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track in English as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono options in English and Italian with optional English subtitles for each option. Not surprisingly, the lossless English track sounds better than the Italian and English Dolby Digital variations. My Dear Killer gets a 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track in Italian as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track in Italian with optional English subtitles. The Girl In Room 2A get a 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track in English as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono options in English and Italian with optional English subtitles for each option and, again, the lossless option is the way to go here. Regardless, each of the three films sounds quite good, levels are balanced well, dialogue is always clean and clear and any hiss or sibilance that might be there is minimal. Additionally, the English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read (aside from the occasional flub in My Dear Killer).

    Extras are laid out as follows:

    French Sex Murders:

    The main extra for is a commentary track from Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan which they describe as a 'punk rock giallo film' before then going on to talk up the insanity of the film and its many ridiculous elements that set it apart from the more conventional giallo pictures out there. Along the way, they talk about the life and times of Dick Randall, the seriousness of giallo fandom, details on the different cast and crew members involved with the picture, how the film really has no clear protagonist, the quality (of lack thereof) of the stunt work in the movie, how the film is a 'melting pot of European cult cinema unfolding on screen,' the co-production angle, the film's score and why it might sound familiar and lots more.

    Carried over from the Mondo Macabro DVD release Dick Randall is a half hour documentary on legendary exploitation/horror/drive-in producer Dick Randall entitled appropriately enough, The Wild Wild World Of Dick Randall. Through interviews with his widow and many of the people who worked with and knew the eccentric producer Mondo Macabro gives us some fascinating background information on the man and his work. Odd are if you’re even remotely interested in genre films you’re at least in some way familiar with one or two of the films he helped launch, be it the masterpiece that is For Your Height Only or the fabulous disaster that is The Clones Of Bruce Lee. Randall cashed in on pretty much any and every popular movie craze he could and he did so as cheaply and quickly as possible, putting out kung fu movies, ninja movies, jungle movies, trash and sexploitation movies, women in prison films, action films, horror films, and everything else under the sun using different company names on different films to save on certain costs that these types of endeavors incur.

    A still gallery, menus and chapter selection options round out the extras on the disc.

    My Dear killer:

    The main extra on this disc is the inclusion of the English version of the film, which runs 1:38:24 versus the Italian version at 1:40:01. Sourced from a tape but presented in AVC encoded 480i format with Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, it’s an interesting variant but the English dubbing isn’t as good as the Italian language option.

    Innocence Lost is a brand new video interview with writer Roberto Leoni that clocks in at roughly forty-five-minutes. He talks here about how he got into giallos and mysteries, what intrigued him about these stories, the influence of art and painting on him at a young age, different sources of literature that made an impact on him in his formative years, where the premise for My Dear killer came from, how this film compares to other films he's written like Santa Sangre, getting his start in the film industry, the infamous drill set piece in the movie, the importance of the opening murder set piece, his thoughts on the cast used in the picture, working with Tonino Valerii, how Berger was quite difficult to work with during the shoot due to some personal matters but managed to stay professional, details on some of the characters in the film, the use of long takes in the movie and lots more.

    Also found on the disc is an archival interview with actor George Hilton and director Tonino Valerii that lasts thirteen-minutes. Hilton talks about what Valerii was like to work with, if the role was difficult or not, thoughts on the character, memories of the cast, and his thoughts on working in this and other violent thrillers. Valerii talks about getting his start doing westerns, how he got into directing this picture, financing difficulties during the shoot, working with Hilton, censorship issues with the film and how long it took to shoo the movie.

    Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    The Girl In Room 2A:

    Extras start off with an archival interview with actress Daniela Giordano that runs eleven-minutes and which originally appeared on the Mondo Macabro DVD release. In her mid-sixties when this was shot, but looking twenty years younger than she really is, Giordano makes for an enthusiastic and light hearted interviewee. She talks not only about her work on this picture but also about her work with Mario Bava and how the time she spent working in Istanbul was the worst experience of her career. Giordano’s got a great sense of humor about her work and speaks in English, with a heavy Italian accent, seemingly with no regrets – as such, she makes for a pretty fun subject.

    The disc also includes a new audio essay by film historian and critic Rachael Nisbet that lasts eighteen-minutes. In this piece, she talks about what sets the film apart from other Italian giallo pictures made around the same time, the American influence that works its way into the film, the pictures' gothic elements, details on the cast and crew that worked on the film, the differences between the Italian and English dialogue, some of the subtleties of the plot and character arcs and quite a bit more.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film’s original trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection options.

    Special mention should also be made of the packaging for this release. All three films get their own clear plastic Blu-ray case and those cases in turn slip inside a beautiful, and sturdy, box that opens from the top to allow the cases to slide in. It’s similar to how Vinegar Syndrome packaged their recent Angel and Amityville collections and it’s one of those things that just make their releases that much nicer. It’s also worth pointing out that each of the three films gets some nice reversible cover sleeve art as well.

    Forgotten Gialli Volume One – The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s Forgotten Gialli Volume Two Blu-ray collection offers up three very different, but equally entertaining, examples of the genre, presented in great shape and with a nice selection of extra features too. It’s clear that a lot of care was put into this collection, from the transfers to the packaging, and each of the three films inside are all worth checking out. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full-sized Forgotten Gialli Volume Two screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      MY DEAR KILLER stands waaayyy above the other two films in this set. Terrific, haunting story made all the more so by Morricone's beautiful score. I'd put this film up there with the best of the genre.

      The best thing about FRENCH SEX MURDERS (besides Bouchet and Neri) is the Bruno Nicolai's greatest hits score.